Jared Higgins’ rise to prominence has been anything but gradual. The 19-year-old Chicago rapper, commonly known as Juice WRLD, developed a considerable following through SoundCloud rather quickly (much like most rappers nowadays). Back in 2017, the release of his hit singles, “All Girls are the Same,” and “Lucid Dreams,” only assisted in building his heartsick brand.
His first official EP, Nothings Different (which was released in December of 2017), earned him a few honorable mentions on the hip hop blog, Lyrical Lemonade. Furthermore, the ascent of artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Xan, and the late XXXTentacion, really created this perfect storm for Juice WRLD. Emo-rap was on the incline, and Higgins finally found a medium where he can put his boyish feelings on full display.
With a cult fanbase already in place, as well as a couple of features on the Billboard Hot 100, Higgins obtained enough momentum over the past year to release his debut album, Goodbye & Good Riddance. The 15-track project runs like a Post Malone heartbreak record (i.e. Beerbongs and Bentleys), mixed with a twinge of Lil Yachty personality (i.e. Lil Boat mix-tapes). However, this album mostly falls into the trending category of emo-rap.
Yes, that paragraph alone will probably make old hip hop heads want to tear their eyes out, and cry about the millennial generation (think Joe Budden). Despite that, I kind of dug Higgins’ psychedelic approach.
The production on Goodbye & Good Riddance encompasses a wide variety of styles and textures, something that’s completely missing from an artist like Lil Xan. Each beat flows really well with the overall design of the project, whether it be the airy piano-like synth on “All Girls are the Same,” the 808-driven “Lucid Dreams,” or the catchy guitar riff on “Lean Wit Me.” Higgins explores an assortment of different sounds taken from other genres, whether it be psychedelia, 90s alt-rock, or modern-day post-punk (but mostly rap, of course).
Unlike some of his recent contemporaries, Higgins’ full-time producer, Nick Mira, congregates each sound with a great bit of thought, utilizing the platform necessary for a solid heartbreak song. Sure, Higgins might have some lyrical shortcomings at times (like on the very banal “Hurt Me,” where he croons, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but the drugs won’t hurt me, the drugs won’t hurt me.”), but his impassioned delivery creates a sense of actual trauma from being a part of an unhealthy relationship.
In a world where the majority of rap albums analyze the hectic lifestyle of money, girls, and drugs (mostly in a positive light), Higgins does the opposite. Songs like “Long Gone” and “End of the Road”are legitimately sad and depressing. Higgins wails, “Listen to my story, it’s depressing/Heartbreak mixed with the drugs, not the best thing/The devil tryna test me, I’m failing. inhaling,” on the former track, hoping someone, if anyone can help him from this horrendous state of mind. Higgins then realizes it’s too late on the latter song, rapping, “This is as far as it goes/This the end of the road/This the end of the rope/The other end of the throat/It’s suicidal she wrote. The lyrics on both tracks are both sorrowful and mesmerizing. Higgins performs way beyond his years, and forces people to understand the dark feelings he has following a humongous breakup.
Rather than glorifying a certain luxurious lifestyle, Higgins captures listeners with his rawness and pent-up anger (something the aforementioned “All Girls are the Same” probed). As minimal as his message may seem on the final track, “I’ll Be Fine” (see chorus), at least the upbeat sound plays out like a breath of fresh air for an otherwise bleak album. Higgins needed to get a lot off of his chest, and there definitely seems to be a weight finally lifted off of his shoulder by the end of it all.
Sure, people will dock Higgins for his obvious Post and Yachty inspirations, as well as his sometimes corny lyricism. However, each song brought something new and fresh to the genre. With more of a budget on his next project, hopefully Higgins can polish up some of the mixing, because some songs sounded louder than others oddly enough. Nonetheless, aside from a few unnecessary skits, Higgins solidifies himself as a more layered version of a drugged, lovesick artist, carrying a boatload of potential. For once, we may have found ourselves an emo-rapper who could last for quite some time.